NCL Holdings president and CEO Frank Dek Rio rang the bell this morning at the New York Stock Exchange in celebration of the five year anniversary of NCL’s listing. Del Rio was later interviewed by CNBC when he was asked about cyclone Grayson, often called the “bomb cyclone” storm, which terrorized the passengers aboard the Norwegian Breakaway as it sailed into the storm while heading back to New York last week.

Smiling, CEO Del Rio stated this morning (video link here) to a national television audience:

NCL Cruise CEO Frank Del Rio  . . . weather can be unpredictable . . . and that’s what happened this weekend . . . the great news is our ship is back in the Caribbean carrying 4,000 happy cruisers . . . so . . . all good. 

Meterologists all agree that the storm was perfectly forecasted well in advance. Many of the traumatized passengers on the Breakaway felt that NCL’s priority was to get back to port in New York to pick up new passengers so NCL would not lose any money. (You can read about NCL recklessly sailing into the storm in this article by Mashable).

Del Rio’s insensitive, flippant comments are typical for this greedy cruise CEO, who made $31,900,000 in 2015 alone.  Last year, he told the audience at last year’s Seatrade Global conference that he loved fewer regulations under President Trump because “they make us money.” In 2005, he defended NCL’s increase in gratuities by saying “every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line.” And in 2005 at the Miami Cruise Shipping trade show, he told the audience that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” (I couldn’t help tweeting at the time “have you heard of ISIS?”) The next day, fanatics targeted cruise-ship passengers who sailed into the Capital of Tunisa, slaughtering and injuring 38 passengers.

I posted Del Rio’s interview on our Cruise Law News Facebook page, and quickly received the following comments:

  • Weather in the 21st Century is not ALL that “unpredictable.” Responsible Officers have to get up to date conditions and forecasts and make responsible decisions based upon that information. That “responsible decision ” would NOT have been to sail through the conditions the Master took that ship through. “Responsible Corporate Management would not have embarked passengers or planned port calls with passengers embarked,for Mid Winter cruises from Northern latitude Atlantic ports such as New York in this season. Greed can be the ONLY reason for such actions.
  • Clearly, he is totally out of touch and lying through his teeth. The weather had been predicted days prior.
  • Admit nothing deny everything. What a putz.
  • Fat Cat personified.
  • That ship should have cancelled the cruise with the advance weather report they had.

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photos/Videos: CNBC.

Opening Bell, January 11, 2018 from CNBC.

Norwegian Breakaway This week, a number of passengers contacted our office after returning from the harrowing end of their ill fated cruise aboard NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway.

News accounts indicate that on January 2, 2018, the Breakaway stopped at its private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Videos available online show the weather, initially calm and pleasant, turning rough as the passengers used tenders to return to the cruise ship. This was a foreshadowing of things to come.

By this date, and as early as December 31, 2017, weather forecasters were unanimously predicting that a huge storm would form off the U.S.’s southeast coast and head north later in the week.

But Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stuck with its itinerary and subjected the passengers to several days of extreme winds and waves as the hurricane-strength storm pounded the cruise ship on January 3rd and 4th. Water leaked into the ship as passengers complained on social media of panic and seasickness with several dozens of frightended passengers sleeping in the ship’s atrium. CBS quoted one passenger as saying that “there were people crying, everyone was throwing up. It was a nightmare. It was so tilted I was shaking.”

Many passengers complained about a lack of communication from the captain.

NCL downplayed the incident which infuriated many of the traumatized passengers.

In one of several statements released by NCL after the Breakaway returned to port in New York, NCL claimed that the cruise ship “encountered stronger than forecasted weather conditions.”

The cruise line’s conduct and lack of transparency are similar to the conduct of Royal Caribbean after the Anthem of the Seas cruised into a major storm which, like the Grayson “bomb cyclone,” was well forecast in advance. The captain of the Anthem claimed that the storm was not accurately forecast, which led Al Roker, the popular television weatherman on the Today Show, to state “Royal Caribbean’s claim that this was not predicted is bullfeathers.

Cruise lines ordinarily have a duty of only “reasonable care” under the circumstances. But in instances of rough weather, cruise lines have a much higher duty of care to the passengers. Some characterize this duty as the “highest duty of care” of the passengers when the ship is expected to encounter rough weather.

Our firm previously represented traumatized passengers on the Anthem of the Seas which Royal Caribbean recklessly sailed through a violent storm in 2016. You can see a video of my interview with a New Jersey television station here.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Faceboook page.

January 10, 2018 Update: Passengers Consider Lawsuit After Norwegian Cruise Line Sails Through Winter Storm Grayson (Video).

Image credit: CBS News

NCL Norwegian Breakaway Storm

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 14 year old boy from a NCL cruise ship approximately 300 miles east of Ocean City, Maryland yesterday morning.

The crew of Norwegian Breakaway notified the Coast Guard center in Portsmouth, Virginia that a passenger on the cruise ship was suffering from appendicitis.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a HC-130J aircraft to the NCL ship. The helicopter flew the boy and his grandmother to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Coast Guard medevacs are not charged to the passenger but are paid for by U.S. taxpayers. 

Video credit: WAVY.com 

http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=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

Cruise Ship MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard was busy on Thursday and Friday with four medevacs of ill cruise ship passengers off of the coast of Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. 

The Coast Guard first provided an emergency airlift on Thursday morning to a 47-year-old male passenger from the Celebrity Reflection, to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Celebrity cruise ship was about 35 miles north of Puerto Rico, en route from St. Kitts to Miami, when the crew requested Coast Guard assistance in transporting the man who was described as being in "medical distress" to a local hospital.

On Friday, the Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a 53-year-old woman from the Carnival Ecstasy which was approximately 150 miles east of Port Canaveral. The crew of the Ecstasy contacted the Coast Guard at around 10:43 a.m., stating that a passenger was experiencing chest pain.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the Carnival cruise ship. The helicopter arrived at the Ecstasy aroung at 2:30 p.m., hoisted the cruise passenger and a ship nurse, and transported them to Halifax Memorial Hospital in Daytona at around 4:45 p.m. A video of the rescue is below at the middle.

Also on Friday, the Coast Guard station in Miami deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted a 41-year-old passenger man from the Carnival Magic which was about 100 miles southwest of Key West.

The man was experiencing chest pains and was flown to the Miami-based air station, where EMS personnel drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. A video of the medevac is at the bottom.

A family member left a message on the Defense Video and Imagery Services (DVIDS) webpage stating:

So thankful for your service . My son-in-law is going to be fine. They put a stint in and we should be able to bring him home to North Carolina soon. God is Good !! Our prayers were answered. May God bless each of you for your service and for getting him where he needed to be to get help. Our family is grateful for all you did.

A third medevac also took place on Friday afternoon. The Coast Guard medevaced a 60 year-old man from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina after the crew reported that he was experiencing kidney failure.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft which arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway, around 120 miles southeast of Wilmington. The helicopter crew hoisted the man to the helicopter and transported him to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment. 

There is no reported inforrmation regarding the status of this NCL passenger or the other passengers who were medevaed for emergency medical treatment ashore from the Carnival Ecstasy or the Celebrity Reflection.  

The costs involved in U.S. Coast Guard medevacs are paid by the U.S. government. 

Another cruise ship medevac took place on Friday after a 66 year old woman fell and broke both of her legs on the P&O Pacific Jewel off the north-east coast of Australia (Queensland).

 Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Video credit: 

Top – 7News Australia.

Middle – Carnival Magic – U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via DVIDS.

Bottom – Carnival Ecstasy – Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via DVIDS. 

 

  

 USA TODAY published an article today titled USA TODAY’s Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuity Charges

This is a topic which we write about quite often, as the cruise lines try to maintain their high profits while building bigger and bigger cruise ships which are getting more expensive to operate.  

Any discussion involving cruise ship gratuities really involves three issues, in my view: (1) cruise lines are dictating that everyone pay a gratuity of a certain amount, regardless of the level of the services, (2) cruise line are diverting monies paid in gratuities to fund the salaries of crew members "behind the scenes" (like cooks, cleaners, etc.) who typically do not receive gratuities, and/or (3) cruise lines are Carnival Cruise Gratuitiesdiverting the income paid in gratuities into the cruise lines’ profits?

The article addresses the first issue head-on and points to the general belief of the public that "tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers." Many critics of mandatory/automatic gratuities say that a gratuity must be earned; if the guest receives excellent service, they will tip well (sometimes more than the recommended amount), but if the guest believes the service is bad, they will pay a lower amount or perhaps nothing at all. 

But many crew members such as waiters or cabin attendants do not receive any salary at all. They earn 100% of their income from passenger gratuities. For the longest time, Royal Caribbean paid its waiters and cabin attendants received a salary of only $50 a month, although hard working waiters and motivated cabin attendant could collect several thousands of dollars a month from tips and gratuities. But the tips are tighter now and, with the auto-gratuities, less likely to end up with the waiters and cabin attendants. It is unfair for them to work for a pittance. 

Many cruise lines permit the guests to adjust or remove the gratuities while they are on-board the ship. NCL requires its guests to go through a onerous process of filling out forms after the cruise before a gratuity can be lowered or removed. 

Many crew members complain that many passengers wait until the last day of a cruise to remove all of the gratuities from their bills. 

Last year, Carnival crew members published a Facebook post (since taken down) showing the names (subsequently redacted) and cabin numbers of Carnival passengers who removed their automatic tips. Some of these people may have removed the pre-paid gratuities and paid cash but many may have stiffed the crew.

The real problem as I see it is that cruise lines are not being transparent with who exactly receives the automatic gratuities. The USA TODAY article writes that cruise lines say that the increased gratuities "will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service." But many guests do not want to tip crew members who they never see (such as a galley worker). Many also believe that the cruise lines should pay their crew members decent wages and not require the passengers to be responsible for the crew’s salary.

The USA TODAY article touches upon this issue, writing that "some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers." Disguising the real purpose of a gratuity is a type of fraud, in my opinion, where a cruise guest may believe that he or she is paying the extra gratuity to their wonderful waiter or cabin attendant who went above and beyond for their family for a week, but the reality is that their gratuities are spread throughout the housekeeping and dining room departments to pay salaries as well as for "alternative services," according to Carnival. (See Carnival’s explanation of where the tips go here; and Royal Caribbean’s explanation here; NCL does not disclose any details as far as I can tell). The USA TODAY article says that "as much as 95% of pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic."

And does anyone really trust that the cruise lines are not pocketing the gratuities as part of onboard revenue? The USA TODAY article does not touch this topic. Over 25 million people will sail on cruise ships this year. Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. If 15 million passengers are charged at a rate of several hundreds of dollars a week in auto-gratuities, there are many hundreds of millions of dollars at play over the course of a year. (Carnival charges an average of over $360 a week for a family of four staying in a standard stateroom). 

NCL’s CEO Frank Del Rio said during an earnings conference in 2015 that for every dollar collected in an increased gratuity, NCL earns an extra $15,000,000. Does anyone really think that the crew members are enjoying this extra income?

Between the greedy cruise executives and the miserly passengers who remove gratuities, the hard-working crew members seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 3, 2017 Update: A crew member wrote today, to me saying: Yes cruise lines are diverting tips to pay salaries of . . . even managers . . they use the tips to pay the bar manager, asst bar manager, housekeeper chief, asst housekeepers manager and food and beverage manager – they all get a slice of the tips."

NCL Norwegian BreakawayThe U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a nineteen year old cruise ship passenger, yesterday, from NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway.  The cruise passengers was reportedly experiencing severe stomach pain.

The Norwegian Breakaway alerted the Coast Guard yesterday morning that the passenger needed medical treatment when the ship was approximately 400 miles off the North Carolina coast while the ship was returning to New York City.

 A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a C-130 Hercules aircraft crew left from Elizabeth City, North Carolina yesterday afternoon. The helicopter arrived at the cruise ship when it was approximately  230 miles northeast of Elizabeth City, at around 5:42 p.m. and medevaced the woman around 6:10 p.m.

The passenger was flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

Video credit: Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System.

 Story Credit: WTKR 3 

Norwegian Breakaway Rescue Boat AccidentA number of newspapers in Bermuda are reporting that four people were injured when a lifeboat fell from the Norwegian Breakaway while the cruise ship was docked at port today.

The Royal Gazette says that one of the crew members is in critical condition at the hospital. This newspaper reports that a lifeboat had fallen from the cruise ship and “was left hanging from one wire resulting in four people falling into the water.”

Bernews reports that NCL released a statement, saying that “on July 20 while Norwegian Breakaway was alongside in Bermuda, an incident occurred involving the ship’s rescue boat during a routine drill, affecting four crew members.”

Bernews clarifies that a “rescue boat,” as opposed to a lifeboat, was involved in the mishap.  A video shows what this newspaper says is a rescue boat flipped upside down in the water with its hull partially showing.

I first became aware of the accident when PTZtv, which operates the webcam for this port, tweeted observing an unusually large EMS & police response to an incident at the port.

A year ago, two NCL crew members were injured when a rescue boat from the Pride of American fell after cables broke while the cruise ship was in Hilo.

Lifeboats accidents are not uncommon. In January of this year, a cruise ship tender boat on the Balmoral operated by Fred Olsen Lines malfunctioned, during a scheduled boat training drill while the cruise ship was docked in Funchal, Madeira. Fortunately, no one was injured. In August 2015, an excursion boat from the Costa Mediterranea apparently broke a cable while it was being lowered in Montenegro. Photographs sent to me shows what appears to be a lifeboat dangling on the side of the Costa cruise ship.  In October 2014, a rescue boat on the Coral Princess was being raised on davits with two crew members aboard when a cable snapped and a crew member was killed. In February 2013, 8 crew members were in a lifeboat during a drill on the Thomson Majesty cruise ship when the lifeboat plunged 60 feet into the water when it was being lifted in violation of a new CLIA safety protocol. The lifeboat landed upside down. 5 of the crew were killed. 3 were injured. It was caused by a broken cable (photograph here).

Update:  One crew member injured in the accident has reportedly died, according to NCL.

Video and photo credit: Bernews

 

Jet Buzzes Norwegian Breakaway?A reader of Cruise Law News sent me a link to a YouTube video which seems to show a jet aircraft flying low and perilously close to the Norwegian Breakaway.

The video was apparently filmed by a passenger on the cruise ship last Friday, June 24th, and was posted to the YouTube page of Richard Ogle, with this description:

“I have no idea what his intentions were, but I guarantee we all didn’t like it. Whoever was the pilot of the Falcon, was either a terrorist who was spying on us, marine training, or a dumbass rich dude who’s showing off his new aircraft. I don’t know what the true answer is but I know that it wasn’t normal and more than likely illegal for anything to be flying that close to a ship, especially 4 times in a row. Either way, nobody was hurt, but most were completely terrified, and I hope everybody is ok. The Video was taken on the Sundeck (Deck18) on the Norwegian Breakaway (NCL) on a 7 day round trip cruise from New York to Bermuda, at 4:30 PM at St. George, Bermuda June 24, 2016.”

I initially though that the video was a hoax, but probably just because I have never seen this before.  I have seen some footage of Russian military jets and helicopters buzzing U.S. naval ships over the years but nothing like this involving a cruise ship. One of the few comments to the video suggests that the captain of the cruise ship may have announced that the incident involved “some type of military training operations” but there is no verification of this.

The jet in question does not appear to be a military airplane, but otherwise this seems to be a scene right out of a Top Gun movie! (” Sorry, Goose, but it’s time to buzz the tower!”)

Anyone have information about this?  Thanks.

Update: A reader pointed out that Captain Kate MccCue poster a video on instagram of a jet buzzing a Celebrity cruise ship (the Summit) which you can see here.

Update # 2: Answer to the mystery?  A reader posted on our Facebook page that a Bermuda newspaper says that that two military jets have been flying low altitude circuits over Bermuda this evening [June 24] and mentioned “low flying French Air Force Falcon aircraft.” There is apparently a dispute whether the low level flights were authorized by the Department of Civil Aviation in Bermuda.

Video / Image Credit: Richard Ogle YouTube page.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=pAMYeRqy5DA%3Frel%3D0

 

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced two people from a NCL cruise ship this afternoon. 

The rescue was initiated when the Norwegian Breakaway, returning to New York from Bermuda, contacted the Coast Guard indicating that a 28 year old woman aboard the cruise ship was experiencing stomach pain. A 38 year old man was also reportedly complaining of stomach pains. 

A Coast Guard helicopter and aircraft were dispatched from Elizabeth City this morning and flew approximately 260 miles to the cruise ship to airlift the two passengers to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. They reportedly are in stable condition. 

Video credit: Defense Imagery and Video Distribution Center

 

 

The United States Coast Guard medevaced a 61 year-old woman from a NCL cruise ship near Cape Hatteras on Monday.

The Coast Guard crew was notified that a female passenger was found unconscious aboard the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship, around 1 P.M. 

The Coast Guard deployed a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from U. S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.

The helicopter crew took the woman to the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Va. where EMS personnel were waiting.

Video Credit: Defense Imagery and Video Distribution System